Moment nears for 911’s ‘flipping of the switch’

Probably in the dead predawn hours midweek, they’ll be ready to go.

Staff with the Grand Junction Regional Communications Center and Century Link, the vendor for the Grand Valley’s new 911 system, will be huddled inside the dispatch room at Grand Junction’s new public safety center.

The city’s $33 million public safety leap will have arrived at the moment it must turn off its aging 911 system at 625 Ute Ave. and turn on a new era.

“Our highest risk in this is transitioning the 911 system and flipping that switch,” said Paula Creasy, project manager for the 911 changeover.

“We’ll say ‘go’ and there will be about a 15-minute period when Garfield County is handling our 911 calls,” Creasy said.

They’re aiming for Wednesday for the changeover of the system, which dispatches for 22 agencies while averaging around 300,000 calls annually.

“There are plenty of things that have to fall into place, and if we need to take a delay, that’s more important than meeting some artificial deadline,” Police Chief John Camper said. “It depends on when everyone’s ready and what’s happening in the community at the time.”

Months of phased preparation — racks holding servers have been moving into the new building since the spring — have been aimed at ensuring a seamless transition. And preparing for doomsday-type scenarios that have kept Creasy up some nights.

“We’re constantly wondering about that,” she said. “If something happened, and the backup to the backup failed, we will still have some of our dispatchers sitting over there (old facility at 625 Ute Ave.) ready to go. We’re not going to remove equipment until we are comfortable we’re not going have to move back.”

Grand Junction’s transition to a new 911 system is being watched by entities across western Colorado.

“One of the main reasons we went to this new system is the networking we’ll have with other communications centers in the region,” Creasy said.

Garfield County is soon expected to complete a similar 911 switch to the same server equipment to be used in Grand Junction, while Pitkin and Eagle counties are finalizing contracts for the same technology, Creasy said.

In theory, if the need arises, a burglary call in Grand Junction may be handled by a 911 dispatcher in Vail, Camper said.

“If they have a bus accident on I-70 and Vail can’t answer the 30 calls that come in, the system will automatically roll those calls over to Garfield County, or we could help answer those calls,” Creasy said.


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